Sensors For Structures

7/12/2013
Structural failures can lead to tragedy on a horrific scale. But perhaps the most tragic element of all is how preventable bridge or building collapses can be. Truth be told, proper upkeep on these structures can save lives. Thankfully, a new M2M solution is letting engineers know when repairs and upkeep need to take place.

Resensys, www.resensys.com, has developed a realtime, wireless structural health detection system. Comprised of small, strategically placed sensors, the system is used to measure strain, acceleration, vibration, displacement, deformation, tilt, temperature, and humidity. All these factors go into ensuring a structure is sound and secure.

“In most cases, before a bridge or building collapses, measurable, meaningful changes occur on the structure,” says Mehdi Kalantari, president and CTO of Resensys. “Our technology provides a strong tool for the early and efficient detection of these changes. Whether some portion of the structure is overstrained or deformed, irreversible shifts or transformations can be detected with our technology way ahead of an actual failure so that repairs, and/or adjustments, can be made.”


The data gathered by the sensors is aggregated and wirelessly transferred to a data center for continuous analysis. When a structural problem is detected, alerts are sent to maintenance or repair engineers.

The sensors can be battery-powered, but Resensys also offers a green alternative in which the sensors draw power from ambient light or radio waves. Either way, they can last for decades without repairs.

“The ease of installation, long lifecycle and low cost of these systems convinced us to use Renesys sensors for all of our structural health monitoring projects,” says Marcus Schmieder, industrial engineer, lean consultant, and NDT (non-destructive testing) specialist at Metro Testing Laboratories, www.metrotesting.ca, which makes use of Resensys sensors.

The idea of a building or a bridge collapsing is not too far-fetched. Earlier this year, the United States’ infrastructure received a meager D+ when graded by the ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers), www.asce.org, an advocacy group for American infrastructure needs. The grade was given based on the infrastructure’s capacity to meet future demand, condition, funding, future needs, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. In the end, the report concluded America’s critical infrastructure may soon fail to meet society’s needs. The ASCE believes the country isn’t making the necessary investments to maintain its current infrastructure, let alone invest for the future.

Case in point: The I-5 bridge collapse which occurred May 23 in Washington. The collapse caused vehicles to fall into the Skagit River below. Thankfully, no fatalities were reported. But there is little doubt the situation could have been much worse.

Such cases sever as prime examples for how M2M can help improve our infrastructure. If used effectively, M2M and connected devices can prevent the unspeakable from becoming reality.

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